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The Prisoner in the Fort de Joux
Madison Smartt Bell
From the novel, Master of the Crossroads.
Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution, was deported to France and incarcerated in a fortress in the Alps, near the Swiss border, where he died in 1802.
A step behind the anxious jailor, Cafarelli picked and splashed his way through the flooded third corridor, lifting his polished boots high before setting them back down in the wet, clicking his tongue with distaste. Boards had been laid to bridge the flood but they had warped and bowed beneath the water and were useless, already rotting at the edges. It was very cold. Cafarelli held himself tight so as not to shiver, standing in the ankle deep water while Baille took an interminable time to find the right key on his huge ring.
The door groaned inward. The next corridor, the last one, had a higher floor which mercifully was dry. Two ironbound doors were set deeply into the wall, toward the far end of the corridor.
“Laquelle?” Cafarelli’s voice rebounded in the narrow vault, louder than he’d intended.
Baille pointed, and swung forward the heavy ring of keys.
“Laissez-moi.” Cafarelli closed his hand over the shank of the key Baille had selected.
The jailor, his plump face damp with anxiety, began to sputter a protest. Cafarelli silenced him with a raised forefinger.
“Yes!” he hissed. “I will enter alone, I will remain with him, alone. You will leave us so. My orders.”
Baille subsided, and let the key ring slip. Turning his shoulder to exclude the jailor, Cafarelli fit the key to the lock and with a grinding effort turned it. The sound of the lock disengaging would certainly be audible within the cell, but Cafarelli waited. Suspense. He could practically feel Baille’s noisy, moist breathing on the back of his neck. He adjusted his cuffs and collar, pushed the door open and stepped in.
Side lit by the red embers of his fire, the old negro who called himself
sat with his left arm propped on his chair back, looking up toward the
door with an imperious expectancy. Cafarelli had studied him at second
hand. He had pored over Toussaint’s letters, cross-examined the military
officers and civilian officials who had dealt with him in the past . .
. and survived to report the experience. He knew in advance that Toussaint
was physically small, but he was still unprepared for his diminutive stature.
This? Why, the man’s legs were so short his heels did not quite touch the
floor. At the same time he was disconcerted by something in Toussaint’s
expression which made him feel that the old negro had overheard his muttered
colloquy with Baille (although this was hardly likely given the thickness
of the door)
But he was already proceeding according to plan, having brought his feet together neatly when he entered and made a movement of his hips and neck which faintly suggested a bow. He had already begun to speak, in his most unctuous tones: “Sir, you can surely imagine the great pleasure I feel to find myself in the presence of a man whose name is so celebrated, who has accomplished such extraordinary things. . . .”
All the while these honeyed droplets purled off his tongue, Cafarelli was aware of the tumblers turning in the lock behind him as Baille muscled the key around, and around again for the double lock. In another part of his mind, Napoleon’s instructions reviewed themselves: . . . you will see Toussaint, who has caused the Minister of War to write to me that he has important things to communicate. In speaking with him, you will make him understand the enormity of the crime of which he has made himself guilty by bearing arms against the Republic, and that we have considered him a rebel from the moment he published his constitution, and that furthermore his treaty with Jamaica and England was made known to us by the court of London; you will strive to gather everything he can tell you of these different subjects, and also about the existence of his treasures, and whatever political news he may have to tell you. . . . Meanwhile he observed Toussaint closely for any sign of reaction to the words he continued to utter, without, himself, really listening to them: “. . . and so I would be charmed to be instructed by such a man as I describe, should he be willing to honor me with his conversation. . . .”
Toussaint was watching him with what seemed an indulgent smile. A yellow cloth was tied around his head, for what might have been a comic effect, if not for the man’s strange, compelling dignity. The fingers of one hand were splayed along the right side of his long jaw, pressing hard enough to indent the flesh. When Cafarelli had stopped talking, Toussaint turned to the table at his left and lit the single candle. Then he swung back in a leisurely manner toward his visitor, passing a hand across the lower part of his face as if to wipe away anything his expression might reveal.
“Of course,” he said. The voice was low, but resonant, larger than the
man. “It is you who do honor to me. Please sit down.”
THAT NIGHT CAFARELLI sat in the room provided for him, composing his notes by the light of a sputtering oil lamp. At his left hand was a glass of extraordinarily sour red wine. He wished for brandy; there was none. Perhaps sugar. He sipped the wine, grimacing. Baille had told him that Toussaint sugared not only his wine but everything else which he put into his mouth; the prisoner’s consumption of sugar was ruinous.
He licked the vinegarish residue from his teeth, and sighed. This mission would detain him here longer than he had anticipated. Toussaint was a maze not easily unraveled. The first interview had taken nearly all the day. Well, Cafarelli had expected the isolated captive to be eager to talk. But not that his discourse would travel in such smooth, impenetrably interlocked circles. In five hours of questioning he had learned practically nothing of use.
The wick of the lamp was of the poorest quality, so that the flame and the light fluttered constantly. Cafarelli scratched with his pen. He must unreel all the secrets from Toussaint’s mind and set them down on the paper. But for the first day, little enough to report. Toussaint had talked all around him (and Cafarelli was proud of his skill as an interrogator). His rich, low voice was pleasant to hear, and after a couple of hours it had begun to make Cafarelli feel sleepy, in spite of the cold.
What a wretched place it was, this Fort de Joux. Though it was only September, the mountains were already heavy with snow. Probably the snowcaps never melted even in high summer. How long he must remain here only God knew. The First Consul had also charged him to investigate the escape of Suzannet and Dandigné. To begin with, Cafarelli had taken that as the more difficult assignment—no more.
The wick fizzled, releasing a great burst of darkness. Cafarelli froze in place, but it was absurd, absurd—he could not be frightened by the dark. A tiara of red sparks crowned the wick’s end, nothing more. Outdoors the wind was whistling.
This misfortunate castle. Set in an exterior wall was another barred cell—no more than a niche, really: three feet by four. Here some feudal lord had shut up his wife at the age of seventeen, having discovered her unfaithful when he returned from a Crusade or some such adventure. Baille had dutifully conducted him to this point of interest, when Cafarelli had first arrived. According to the tale, the cell was so placed as to force the girl to look out upon her lover’s corpse, which swung from a cliff of the mountain opposite. Some spikes and grommets could still be discerned with a spyglass, Baille said, but Cafarelli had not the heart to look.
The sparks swelled and joined, a red rim on the end of the wick. Cafarelli found it difficult not to hold his breath. In that tiny cell, the unlucky wife could not ever have straightened her legs. The thought of her constantly curled limbs especially disturbed him. Of course people were smaller then—but certainly she could not have stood erect beneath the three foot ceiling. Berthe de Joux had been her name. He pictured her curled like a fox in a cage, gnawing at crusts, pushing her own ordures out through the bars with her fingers. Watching the bones of her lover drop from the cliffside as gradually the ligaments gave way to rot. She had died an old woman in this confinement, but how long would it have taken for her to grow old?
The red rim yellowed, the flame expanded on the wick. As the light returned,
Cafarelli forced the stale air from his lungs and drew in fresh. He concentrated
on each exhalation, sweeping the morbidity from his mind. Dipping the pen
into the inkwell, he continued his notation on Toussaint. He tells the
truth, Cafarelli wrote grudgingly, but he does not tell all.
NEXT DAY WHEN he entered the cell, he found Toussaint feverish, scarcely able to speak. He kept massaging the yellow kerchief tightly bound around his head, or alternately pressed another wadded yellow cloth along the line of his jaw. His imperial courtesy, already sufficiently bizarre under such circumstances, was still further distorted by his fever. Toussaint excused himself from conversation, until his illness should abate. Perhaps—no, certainly—tomorrow. Under his left hand was a hefty manuscript of his own composition, which, he declared, would answer any and all questions until he should again be able to speak for himself. Let Cafarelli take this document and read it at his leisure; for the time being, Toussaint begged to be excused.
Cafarelli lingered some little time. He had the idea that the fever must weaken Toussaint’s reserve. But although the old negro babbled a few senseless phrases, he let nothing slip. He said nothing of any import at all, other than his repeated proffer of the manuscript. After three-quarters of an hour, Cafarelli felt the touch of shame; he did not regard himself as a torturer. Besides, the manuscript tempted him. He picked it up, wished Toussaint a swift recovery, bowed and took his leave.
Throughout that day, and well into the evening, he read and reread, with mounting frustration. One could not call Toussaint’s memorandum a tissue of lies. On the contrary it was an assemblage of literal truths, artfully arranged to give false impressions. Each fact was just, and each was delicately balanced against the others to create this inverse image: Toussaint had never, not for one instant even in a thought, placed himself in rebellion against France. A good Revolutionary citizen, he had never sought to be anything other than a humble and dutiful conservator of the colony for the nation he in his heart regarded as his own. The Captain-General Leclerc had presented himself in the guise of an invader. He had not troubled to properly present his orders from Napoleon to General Toussaint, who was after all in chief command of Saint Domingue at the time of Leclerc’s arrival. It was Leclerc who had forced his landing and commenced hostilities. And so on . . . and on.
As one kept reading one was required to believe that Toussaint had resisted Leclerc’s arrival with all the forces at his disposal, had burnt towns and plantations, had poisoned wells, had fought desperate battles in which thousands were slain—without ever intending a bit of it! It was all a regrettable misunderstanding.
Preposterous. And yet, it was so seamlessly wrought. The more time Cafarelli spent among the loops and circles of Toussaint’s words, the more he seemed to hear the man’s compelling voice, pouring the concoction into his ears. . . . At moments he came so close to believing that he had to leave the room and walk outside to brace himself with the bitter cold, the clear vision of sharp mountain peaks and the rectilinear walls of the castle.
What was most genuine in the memorandum was the outrage. It came in flashes, in response to the undeniable treachery of Toussaint’s arrest and to the rough, humiliating treatment he and his family had endured ever since. In this regard, there were passages which inspired Cafarelli to fellow-feeling. The outrage was perfectly sincere, and yet it was and must be founded on Toussaint’s contention that he had always been the loyal servant of France, for otherwise it would be unjustified. This link, Cafarelli suddenly perceived, was what gave the whole document its improbable credibility.
On m’a envoyé en France nu comme un ver, Toussaint had written; on a saisi mes proprietes et mes papiers; on a répandu les calumnies les plus atroces sur mon compte. N’estce pas couper les jambes à quelqu’un et lui ordonner à marcher? N’est-ce-pas lui couper lalangue et lui dire de parler? N’est-cé pas enterrer un homme tout vivant?*
All this was outrage, with no hint of self pity. There was the point
of attack. If moved to outrage, Toussaint might speak freely. More freely
than otherwise. There was the opportunity. . . . Cafarelli looked up at
the wheels of brilliant stars in the frozen sky, then across at the cliff
opposite, its dark descent from the pale snow-covered slope above it. It
came to him that he was standing directly above the cell of Berthe de Joux.
As quickly, he shrugged the thought away; his course for the morrow was
IN THE MORNING he found Toussaint descended from the worst of his fever, though he still pressed the kerchief against his jaw as though it pained him gravely. His eyes were hollow, but clear; the febrile glitter of the day before was gone.
After the opening round of courtesies, Cafarelli began as he’d planned, theatrically. He slammed the manuscript on the table. It is all nonsense, he declaimed, raising his voice to resound in the close space. All deception—and useless too. For the evident truth is that you expelled from Saint Domingue all agents of the French government save those who might furnish you with the external façade of continued obedience. That you raised a great army of soldiers who were all devoutly loyal to yourself alone, and flocks of civil servants who owed their devotion only to you. All the while he was speaking, Cafarelli looked forcefully into Toussaint’s eyes, meaning to stare him down, but the black man did not quail or recoil or react in any way at all. In a perfectly balanced stillness, Toussaint merely observed. Cafarelli was obliged to shift his gaze to the drizzling stone wall behind him. You put the entire island in a state of defense; you dealt secretly with the English; finally you proclaimed a constitution and put it into effect before you sent it to the French government for approval—a constitution which names you governor for life! And this—he bashed the manuscript with the flat of his hand—has no bearing whatsoever on any of those facts I have just mentioned. But these are facts which we must discuss. I ask you, what have you to say?
Cafarelli sat down and composed himself to wait. The tick of a watch was just barely audible, somewhere in the other man’s clothes. For a long time, Toussaint did not speak.
No great matter. His fever had passed, and today he felt rather well. Though surely he would never get accustomed to the cold of this place, so very different from the humid jungle peaks of Saint Domingue—these icy spines on the crown of the white man’s world. But he had dressed warmly and built up his fire. Now he was waiting for his guest, with an almost cheerful anticipation. His interrogator, rather. But Toussaint had come very quickly to enjoy their interviews. He did not think about when they would end, though of course he knew they must end eventually, leaving Cafarelli unsatisfied.
He listened to the key turning in the frozen lock. In the doorway, the jowly, anxious face of Baille floated behind the figure of Napoleon’s agent, muttering something not entirely audible across the cell. Cafarelli hovered on the threshold, his forward tilt not quite a bow. The door closed behind him.
“You are well?” Cafarelli looked at him narrowly.
“Oh,” said Toussaint. “I am well enough. And yourself?”
Unfolding his hand, Toussaint indicated the chair opposite his own. Cafarelli smiled and took his seat. With no apparent purpose, he looked into the corners where the barrel vault met the walls of the cell. Toussaint waited, motionless; not even his breath was perceptible.
“Your dealings with the English,” Cafarelli began.
“I have already told you.”
“But you had secret arrangements with them which you have not admitted.”
“Sir, I did not. I made two treaties with the English, and strictly to manage terms for their departure from Saint Domingue.”
“The English suggested that you yourself might place the colony under protection of their crown.”
Toussaint inclined his head.
“You entertained those proposals with a certain favor.”
“Oh,” said Toussaint. “There were some agents of the English who tried to place that idea in my head. I amused myself by making fun of them.”
“And at the same time you accepted their gifts.”
Toussaint let out a whispering laugh. “I had no gifts from the English.” He considered. “I had some twenty barrels of powder from General Maitland, but nothing more.”
Both men were silent while the castle clock tolled the hour.
“Yes,” Toussaint said, “and once General Maitland presented me with a saddle and trappings for my horse, which at first I refused. But when pressed to accept it as a token from himself, rather than his government, I did so.”
“Commendable,” Cafarelli said dryly, but Toussaint did not react to the prick.
“And your secret treaty, signed with Maitland. What were its terms?”
“I have already told you.”
“You have not told all.”
“I agreed not to attack the English at Jamaica,” Toussaint said with an air of fatigue. “The English were to have right to enter the ports at Le Cap and Port au Prince, but no other. They promised not to molest the ships of the French Republic in the coastal waters of Saint Domingue.”
Cafarelli affected a sigh.
“Not all the English officers kept the bargain,” Toussaint said irritably. “Their corsairs took four of our ships after it was signed. That was done by the Admiral Farker and the governor of Jamaica, who complained that Maitland had let himself be deceived by a negro.”
“As perhaps he had,” said Cafarelli.
Again Toussaint declined to react.
“And the other terms of the secret treaty?”
“I have already told you.”
The castle bells rang two more times while the conversation continued to follow these same circular pathways. In the intervals, the ticking of Toussaint’s watch was just barely audible, buried in his clothes. The damp seeped glossily on the inner wall. Cafarelli veered to a new subject.
“And the treasure that you hid in Saint Domingue. Spirited away from the coffers of the French Republic.”
Toussaint clicked his tongue. “The government treasury was reduced by the wars. I had no fortune, not in money. I spent what I had on the same cause, and the rest of my property was in land. There is Habitation d’Héricourt, near to Le Cap, and at Ennery three plantations which I bought from the colons and joined together. Also Habitation Rousinière which is the property of my wife. On the Spanish side of the island I had land where I raised livestock for the army.”
“You sent a ship to the North American Republic, loaded with gold and precious things, and your aide de camp who conducted the cargo was shot when he returned.”
Toussaint ran his tongue around the loose teeth at the front of his jaw. “It is true that I ordered the man shot, but that was because he had tried to debauch some young women of my household.” He paused. “All you white men are always dreaming of gold in the mountains of Saint Domingue. There was gold once, but the Spaniards took it all away a very long time ago.”
“Then what of the six men who went out from Le Cap to bury your treasure in the mountains, and who were shot on their return?”
Toussaint’s heels cracked against the concrete floor, and his eyes grew round and white as he surged against the edge of the table. “That is a lie! A calumny, sir, which my enemies invented to dishonor me. They said I had killed men from my own guard on such a mission, but I called out my guard to prove the lie, and all were present. I would not put the shame of such an act upon my spirit.”
“No,” said Cafarelli softly. “No, perhaps you would not.”
Toussaint subsided. Cafarelli produced his own watch and examined its face. The cry of a circling hawk came toward them distantly from the chasm opposite the cell of Berthe de Joux.
“I will leave you, for a time, to rest,” Cafarelli said. “I will return
IN SAINT DOMINGUE, Toussaint had never formed the habit of the midday siesta, which all who were able to do so practiced. But his secretaries could not work effectively during those hours; stunned by the heat, they spoiled their pages. Toussaint did not stop, but he slowed down, as a reptile might, his eyes half lidded, his body at rest, his mind in slow motion. Many notions and strategies unfolded in his head, and if something shifted in the terrain before his eye, he was aware of it.
Now, as he lay still, fully clothed under a blanket, with his arms folded
across his breastbone, it was more difficult for him to enter this state,
because of the cold. He could feel something in Cafarelli’s intention reaching
toward him, but he could not make out exactly what it was.
THE CRY OF the mountain hawks around the castle had not given Cafarelli the idea itself so much as the language for it. It was, he thought, probably his best hope, if not his last.
He returned to Toussaint’s cell in the afternoon, and for some two hours allowed the conversation to wander in the same circles as it had before. When he again raised the issue of the murdered men who were supposed to have hidden treasure, Toussaint’s flicker of resentment was slighter than it had been earlier. But it was there, and Cafarelli pressed.
“General, you are not putting the truth of yourself into what you tell me. Does not that dishonor your spirit most of all? You give me the answers a slave would make, but you were no slave in Saint Domingue. Your constitution was a declaration of independence in everything but name. You were a rebel, and a proud one! You were an eagle—why pretend to be a duck? Tell me, tell the First Consul—tell the world how it really was.
Toussaint rose up. He did so without moving, but the sudden ferocity of his concentration pressed Cafarelli back in his chair. For a moment he forgot that Toussaint was the prisoner and he was not. As he regained his sense of the true situation, he thought with a burst of excitement that he had won, but the moment passed. Toussaint shrank, his whole body slackened. He looked away as he began to speak, returning to that same circle of evasions he had always made before.
Cafarelli, who sat diagonally across the table from him, detached his handkerchief from his nostril to reply. Toussaint had placed himself with his back to the fire. Cafarelli was further from the meager heat, nearer to that raw stone wall with its constant, dreary seepage.
“It is nothing,” he said, honking slightly. “A cold.”
“Take care lest it become more serious.” Toussaint smiled. “You must take every care.”
An unfolding movement of his hand seemed to indicate for Cafarelli’s
benefit all of the frosty, insalubrious conditions beyond the walls, surrounding
the mountaintop and the Fort de Joux. To be patronized so, by the prisoner!
It was outrageous. Cafarelli blew his nose, delicately, for his nostrils
were chafed, and folded the handkerchief into his pocket.
“OH," HE SAID casually. “Once I have returned to the lowlands, I shall recover easily enough.”
Toussaint said nothing.
“It is still warm there, below these heights,” Cafarelli said. “You understand, it is only autumn, and a mild one too, once one has left these mountaintops.” As you can never hope to do, he added with a silent smirk.
“Allow me to wish you a safe and pleasant journey,” Toussaint said.
An unpleasant pressure spread beneath Cafarelli’s cheekbones, behind his eyes and the bones of his forehead. He sniffed, swallowed the disagreeable slime.
“I shall not see you again, General,” he said.
“No,” Toussaint agreed. “I regret the loss of your company.” He reached inside his coat and drew out two folded paper sealed with wax. “I ask you to deliver two letters for me,” he said. “One to the First Consul. The other to my wife. If you would render me this small service. . . .”
“Of course,” said Cafarelli, in a milder tone than before. He glanced at the letters, then pocketed them. “I shall send you news of your family, as soon as I may. But even now I can assure you that they are treated with all consideration.”
“Thank you,” Toussaint said. “I will be glad of any news of them.” He pressed the madras cloth to the side of his jaw.
“As we shall not meet again,” Cafarelli repeated, “I wonder, General, that you do not take the opportunity to tell me something more substantial.”
“But I have nothing more to tell,” said Toussaint. “You have my memoir.” He dipped his chin. “My letters.”
“Yes, of course,” Cafarelli said, and added in a flash of irritation, “for what little they may be worth.”
But Toussaint only looked at him with his slightly rheumy brown eyes.
“Your secret pact with the English,” Cafarelli said wearily.
“There is no such secret, as I have told you many times,” Toussaint said. “You know all my dealings with the English, and they are clear as glass.”
“Your treasure,” Cafarelli said.
Toussaint blew out a fluttering, contemptuous breath, which made the flame of the candle waver.
“I have no wealth, in money,” he said.
“But in your own memoir you record that at the outbreak of the revolt you possessed six hundred and forty-eight thousand francs.”
“Sir, that was more than ten years ago, and surely you know the costs of war. That sum was all spent on the army, and down to the very last sou.”
“But what of the profits of your commerce since? Your exportations, the sugar and the coffee?”
“Commerce?” Toussaint’s eyebrows lifted. “I was a planter, not a commerçant. What property I enjoy is not in money, but in land.” He paused, considering. “In fact, I owe money which for the moment I am not able to pay. For purchase of those lands of which I have told you. For one plantation I still owe four hundred portugaises, and on another, seven hundred and fifty, I believe.”
“And what of Habitation Sancey?” Cafarelli said quickly.
“Pardon?” said Toussaint. “What, indeed?”
“It was there that your chests of treasure were buried, is it not so?”
Cafarelli lunged. “Fifteen million francs, General—and the negros
who buried it were afterward shot.”
“Fifteen million francs, General,” Cafarelli said again. “The sum which was voted by your central Assembly and paid into your treasury and of which no trace has been found since.”
“You are bleeding,” Toussaint informed him.
A tickle on his upper lip. Cafarelli tasted a thread of blood. He touched the area below his nose and his finger came away stickily red. He smothered a curse as he reached for his handkerchief.
“The altitude,” Toussaint said silkily. “And of course, your cold. But you will do better, as you say, when you have left the mountain.”
Cafarelli, his whole face muffled in his handkerchief, made no reply.
“White people,” Toussaint said, tilting an ear toward the grinding lock. “You blancs always believe that there is a gold mine hidden from you somewhere.”
Outside, the castle bell began to toll. Under the cover of the sound, Baille entered the cell, a long cloth bag slung over his shoulder, and relocked the door with his clattering key ring. He turned and faced the table and the fireplace. Cafarelli greeted him with a lift of his chin, swallowing blood as he did so.
“I have brought you fresh clothing,” Baille told Toussaint, laying out garments on the table as he spoke. Civilian clothes, coarse woolens, brown trousers and a long loose shirt such as a peasant would wear in his field.
“New orders have come, for your maintenance,” Baille said. “If you please, put on these clothes at once, and I will take away the others. Also, I must take your watch.”
Toussaint glanced up at him, then lowered his eyes to the rough clothing. “As you prefer,” he said. He detached his watch chain from a buttonhole and laid the instrument on the table.
Baille cleared his throat. “I must also ask you for your razor,” he said.
Toussaint was on his feet and trembling from head to heel. “Who is it who dares suspect I lack the courage to bear my misfortune? And if I had no courage, I have a family, and my religion—which forbids me any attempt on my own life.”
Baille’s mouth came open and worked in a moist silence.
“Please leave me,” Toussaint said. Baille obeyed.
Cautiously Cafarelli lowered his bloodstained handkerchief. If he kept his head tilted back, the bleeding did not resume, but he must strain his eyes against the lower rim of their sockets to see Toussaint, who had thrown his coat on the bed and was tearing off his linen. His upper body was taut and wiry, the black skin punctuated with a great many grayish white puckers and slashes.
“How many times have I been wounded in the service of my country?” Toussaint said. He touched his jaw. “A cannonball struck me full in my face, and yet it did not destroy me. The ball knocked out many of my teeth, and those that remain give me great pain to this day—although I have never complained of it before now.” He turned out his palm. “This hand was shattered in the siege of Saint Marc, but still it will draw a sword and fire a pistol.”
Cafarelli stuttered without achieving a word. A gout of blood splashed out on his face; again he snatched up the handkerchief. Toussaint unbuttoned his trousers and let them fall. “Enough metal to fill a coffee cup was taken out just here, from my right hip,” he said, “and still, several pieces remain in my flesh. That was when I was struck by mitraille—I did not leave the battle that day till I had won it.” He flicked his finger here and there, from one scar to another on his torso and thighs. “From seventeen wounds in all (if I have not miscounted), my blood has flowed on the battlefield—and all of it spilled for France. You may so inform the First Consul.”
Cafarelli found no answer. With a jerk, Toussaint pulled on the brown trousers Baille had provided. He shrugged into the shirt and sat down with a thump, leaning with his palms braced on the table top.
“Tell my jailor he may come for my possessions,” Toussaint said. “One
day there will be an accounting of all that has been taken from me, and
of how my service has been repaid.” He sat back, wrapping his arms around
his chest. “You may go or remain—you are free to choose. Our conversation
is at an end.”
CAFARELLI DEPARTED, THOUGH he had no heart to travel, that afternoon, even so far as Pontarlier. He stopped at the postal relay station at the mountain’s foot. His nosebleed had dried and clotted unpleasantly, his head ached, he had a touch of ague, and he was unable to taste his food. It was a cold, no more than a cold. In a matter of days he would regain full health and vigor, but for the moment he could not shake off the oppressive sense of his mortality.
Of course he had taken the best private room the post hotel had to offer, which was not however, so very fine or luxurious. Still there was a good fire in the grate, and the alpine chill of the Fort de Joux was already at a distance. By candle and the light of the fire, he struggled to finish his written report. His accounting with Napoleon would not be an agreeable one, as from almost any angle of view it was a report of failure. The First Consul would not fail to recognize it as such. Cafarelli had come away without the information he’d been sent to obtain, and the Consul’s sympathy for any failed effort, however strenuous, was notoriously low.
But after all, one must remember who was victorious and who defeated, who was master now, and who was in chains. Cafarelli dipped his pen for the final paragraph.
His prison is cold, sound, and very secure. He looked at the paper, and added, with next to no enjoyment of the irony: He does not communicate with anyone.
*I was sent to France as naked as a worm. My properties
and my papers were seized; the most atrocious slanders were broadcast about
me, far and wide. Is this not to cut off someone’s legs and then order
him to walk? Is it not to cut off someone’s tongue and tell him to speak?
Is it not to bury a man alive?